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Retro Review: 1997-98 Donruss Box Break

December 8, 2010

Back in my review of the Toronto Fall Expo, I mentioned that I ended up with a total of eight wax boxes from that show.  Today’s post will be the first of a planned “Retro Review” series in which I’ll bust a box of a product that’s a minimum of ten years old.

Today’s Retro Review is of 1997-1998 Donruss.

Why did I buy a box of that you ask?  Because a sealed box of 36 packs for the minimal cost of $5 is simply too difficult for a wax junkie like myself to pass up!

Each pack contained ten cards, and the stated odds on the inserts were one in four packs.  Based on that formula I should have got nine insert cards and a whopping 351 base set cards.  With a set size of only 220 cards, it was not unreasonable to expect the box to garner a full base set as well.  Not a terrible return on my $5 cost.

The inserts hit at exactly the rate that the box stated they should, as I got my nine insert cards.  The box yielded four Silver Press Proofs, (all of which were rookies – Sharifjanov, Vorobiev, Mayers, and Knuble), one Gold Press Proof (Wregget), three Rated Rookies (Vokoun, Cousineau, and Giguere), and an Elite insert of my all-time favourite player and a major focus of my personal collection, Steve Yzerman.


Overall I was pretty happy with the inserts that I pulled.  Getting four rookies for my Silver Press Proofs was a nice bonus even if a couple of them are anonymous in their own house.  For the Rated Rookies I pulled the two best players in the set with Giguere and Vokoun, and for the Gold Press Proof I could have done worse than pulling a goalie who was established in the league for some time in Wregget.  I love the photo on that card too.

The Yzerman card definitely saved the box though.  Since I already had the card for my personal collection I immediately got it up in the eBay store and have already sold it for $10, so the box has been paid for and then some!

The reality of the contents of the box was a bit different from what my expectations (and basic mathematics) suggested I should receive when it came to that expected complete base set.  Of the 351 base cards that I got, 142 of them were duplicates, including FOUR extras of some guy named Daniel Goneau alone!  Subtract the nine inserts that I already mentioned and I ended up being twenty cards short of the base set.

For the price that I paid for the box this is really just a minor annoyance for me in 2010, but if I had bought a box that turned out like this back when the product was first released (and much more expensive) I would have been livid. 

Collation problems like this are inexcusable on the part of the manufacturer from my point of view.  It is just not a good way to attract and retain customers with your products.  Interesting that within less than a year of this set’s release Donruss/Leaf/Pinnacle (or whatever they were going by then) was bankrupt.  Not that this single product did them in by any means, but I suspect this problem was not limited to this product.

Another minor issue that I encountered with this box relates more to the product being packed away in the packs for more than a decade.  Many of the cards in the packs were stuck together in places and in a number of cases the colour on the cards was stripped off when I finally got them separated, leaving them even more worthless than they already are. 

Thankfully none of my five Daniel Goneau cards suffered this fate, so they made it safely into my set and singles box!


Overall I am pretty pleased with this box despite the collation issues.  For $5 I really could not have gone wrong with this purchase.  I have always been a fan of Donruss/Leaf/Pinnacle products, so this was a nice look back at a product that I have always enjoyed.

Add in the fact that I’ve actually made a profit off of what I pulled and I’m happy.  Not only did I get to open a box for a very cheap price, but this box actually moved me forward in achieving my goal of having a financially self-sufficient hobby, albeit a very small step. 

Were you a fan of the original Donruss/Leaf/Pinnacle?  What product was your favourite while they were still in the industry?  Do you think Panini can find success using these old product names in their entry into the hockey card market?  Let me know what you think by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail at bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Coming up on Sunday is the second post in my eight-part series about Taking my Collecting Toward Self-Sufficiency.  Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!



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